Tyler Clementi

It would be disingenuous and misguided of me to pretend like I can at all relate to what happened to Tyler Clementi. I’m a white male whose biggest claim to having anything remotely close to a hardship is being an atheist. The stigma that surrounds my lack of belief is trivial in comparison to what gays and other minorities go through. And there’s a significant difference: I choose to be an atheist. Tyler Clementi didn’t choose to be gay, no more than one chooses to be black or white. That was his identity – and he was forced to keep it in the ‘closet’. We have society to blame for that.

Minorities have been held down and ostracized and mocked ever since early humans began to notice the superficial differences we have between us. But how many minorities have been forced to stay silent on who they were? Blacks have historically been kicked, but they haven’t been forced to hide the physical color of their skin as a routine matter. The same goes for all racial minorities. This doesn’t make their plight any less significant or less important than any other plight, but it does make the discrimination gays face a unique beast. Gays are in the unique position where they can disguise who they are. The horribly hateful bigots out there take advantage of this, proclaiming the existence of some fairytale ‘homosexual agenda’, suggesting homosexuals want to teach gay sex to children, among all the other ugly lies we hear every day. This forces many gays to keep a major defining aspect of their lives a complete secret; fear drives them to hide who they are.

That’s why Tyler Clementi killed himself. If society accepted who he was because, damn it, he’s a human being and deserves at least as much, he would still be alive. He would graduate in three and a half years from Rutgers University, ready to contribute as much as he could to society, to his family, to his friends, to his own well-being. Instead we’re left with an unnecessary and permanent absence because that very society to which Tyler Clementi would have contributed so much is so immersed in a dark, dark hate.

6 Responses

  1. Tragedy perhaps but it’s no ones fault he killed himself. That lays entirely on him. His life, his responsibility.

  2. No, I’m not saying that its alright to harass people and so on.

  3. We have a responsibility to treat others with a certain level of dignity and when we don’t and they react in horribly negative ways, we have ourselves to blame.

  4. I agree to a point. Each persons life is their own however, if they react in a “horribly negative way” that is their own fault. I hope this isn’t prosecuted as a hate crime. Its also certainly not a case of manslaughter.

    I don’t believe in “hate crimes”. For the simple reason that I don’t think that a crime perpetrated against someone because they are (insert minority, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation here) should be treated any differently than if the reason was you didn’t like their nose.

    Would this case have made the news if he was straight and he was videotaped with a girl?

  5. Society, especially its bigots, are to blame for conditioning others to believe they are bad for being who they are. We have to expect tragic events to sometimes happen as a result.

    As far it being a hate crime, I doubt it will be prosecuted as such. The people who recorded Tyler didn’t seem to be doing it out of malice for gays, at least according to news reports. If that was their motivation and there is evidence of as much, then it may be called a hate crime.

    The existence of hate crimes has a strong purpose. We don’t want crimes done for any reason, but we especially recognize that doing them out of hatred for a group puts that group at a bigger risk – a risk that is unjustified and unacceptable. It shouldn’t be riskier to walk the street while gay or black than it is to walk the street while straight or white. And if it is, it needs to be proportionally riskier to commit a crime against gays or blacks provided there is a hate-motivation.

    If Tyler was straight and videotaped with a girl, I doubt he would have committed suicide. But provided he did commit suicide out of some sort of embarrassment or shame, no, it probably wouldn’t be in anything more than the local news. But this goes back to the reason he actually did kill himself: our society has created an environment where people are made to feel as though they are bad for being gay. Because we recognize this as the most significant contributing factor to Tyler’s death, it is a news story; without that factor, it’s still tragic, but it isn’t a national concern in the same way.

  6. I understand the point of hate crimes I just disagree that it should be treated as any worse. It shouldn’t be more dangerous to walk down the street with after displeasing someone in another way either, but it often is.

    I strongly disagree that it should be proportionately riskier to commit a crime against any class of people. Does that not offer me less protection under the law? Should we not have equal protection? I’ve read that someplace…

    If anything should be done it’s bringing the levels of punishment up to the “hate crime” level no matter what reason the crime was committed for.

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